Flying the friendly skies on unfriendly airplanes
Kyle Tolle | Phoenix, Arizona USA | 08/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On September 2nd, 1998, Swissair flight 111 (a McDonnell - Douglas MD -11) flying from New York to Geneva crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nova Scotia killing all 229 people aboard. In the aftermath, the Canadian Transportation Safety Board conducted a 4 ½ year, 39 million dollar investigation that included assistance from the Americans and the Swiss.
Within 9 days of the crash, the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder (`Black Boxes') were recovered from the wreckage. Normally this is a significant aid in dissecting a crash but highly unusual in this case was that the recorders stopped working 6 minutes before the plane went down. In essence, this lost data equated to a major setback for investigators.
At the one year anniversary of the accident, most of the aircraft debris had been recovered and investigators had found burn marks on recovered aircraft parts and floating debris. Clues pointed to a fire origin somewhere in the forward attic section of the plane and this led investigators to focus on an electrically sparked fire. About 150 miles of wire traverse the jet overhead and a serious short circuit (i.e. - an electrical arc) in cracked insulated wire can be catastrophic.
After 3 ½ years of meticulous research, investigators finally pinpointed a space of 2 square feet above the cockpit as the ignition point and the material that quickened the spread of the fire was dangerously flammable fuselage insulation blankets. A re-enactment and simulation of the final 6 minutes of the flight shows the devastating and frightening series of events that made it impossible to save the aircraft and all of those aboard.
The most ominous messages in this documentary might be at the end and they are chilling in their implications. The Canadian Transportation Safety Board made 23 recommendations to improve flying safety because of this disaster. Unfortunately, the Civil Aviation Board (think: FAA) has only implemented a few of these changes much to the detriment of aviation safety. Furthermore, the airline industry and the FAA knew about the flammable material in the Swissair jet years before the accident occurred and they know about similar materials in several types of McDonnell - Douglas, Boeing, and Airbus aircraft today. There is even footage shown here of 2 previous aircraft fires caused by the same flammable insulation that helped bring down flight 111. Since this disaster occurred, there have been efforts to improve aircraft and aspects of flying safety but the progress is much too slow and complacent attitudes continue to persist despite obvious warning signs.
This is now the second NOVA presentation I've seen on aviation issues and I am once again highly impressed with their efforts. My first outing with them was `NOVA: The Deadliest Plane Crash'. Both of these features have met and sometimes exceeded my expectations for a quality documentary and I recommend these programs to everyone.
Crash of flight 111
J. Burchette | 03/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"VERY GOOD PROGRAM. IT HAD DETAILD INFORMATION ABOUT THE CRASH AND ABOUT WHAT CAUSED THE CRASH."
A very helpful and enlightening Documentation
Galileo | 04/28/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I wonder why this docu cannot be obtained in Europe, let alone in Switzerland. It is thorough and informative material, seriously asking a few vital questions but not accusing. It gives a neutral and relieving picture of the pilots who did their best but had no chance. It is still wide-spread that the two of them had an argument on the flight deck, and the Captain's name is still not entirely cleared although there's no reason at all to reproach either of them.
This documentation is giving facts and not speculations. It is highly interesting and informative, even to professionals like me. It's an ode to the many many people working hard to solve this incredible case of disaster and, very importantly, to the two pilots who were fighting for their lives and these of their passengers, not to forget their company. It opens ones eyes to the incredible nit-picking work crash investigators go through and finally find the missing part at the bottom of a scrap box. Highly recommendable!"